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Prenatal Yoga… For You And Your Baby

By: Lisa Pedersen, LCSW
Certified Prenatal Yoga Instructor - Certified Pilates Instructor - Licensed Clinical Social Worker

So you're pregnant and you want to bring your baby into the world in a peaceful, calming way… what to do??? If you already know the benefits of yoga, don't stop when you become pregnant! If you've never practiced yoga before, pregnancy can be a great time to explore yoga - for you and your unborn baby.

In a prenatal yoga class, you have the opportunity to learn the yoga breath or "ujjayi" breathing. It is a very effective way to get oxygen to the baby and a great way to create space for your baby to grow inside your womb. To achieve the "ujjayi" breath, simply put the tip of your tongue behind your top 2 front teeth. While inhaling and exhaling through your nose, pretend that you're telling someone a secret. At the same time, allow your breath to sound like an ocean wave moving in and out along the shoreline. Continue to lengthen your inhales and especially your exhales, pausing in between. Also, be sure to start the breath from your abdomen, allowing it to expand, and allowing your inhalation to move all the way up into your chest region. On your delivery day, the yoga breath can help you feel really strong going into the childbirth experience.

Prenatal yoga students claim they had confidence going into the birth and felt really calm at delivery time. Andrew Levinson, M.D., was quoted in the August 2002 ePregnancy Magazine as saying yoga can help "alleviate aches and pains…" "…it can help moms-to-be gain weight steadily, decrease swelling and maintain glandular balance." He also said that "…yoga seems to help balance mood swings, irritability, fatigue, etc." I have had several yoga students attest to Dr. Levinson's comments.

The yoga poses emphasized in a prenatal class may include pelvic floor exercises and squatting, which help strengthen and stretch the areas greatly needed to push the baby out!! Students new to yoga may find themselves on their hands and feet (as in a crawling position) which can relieve any back pain, a common pregnancy ailment. They also may find themselves practicing gentle inversions (when your head is lower than your hips). These inversions may give you more energy due to the increase in circulation.

Poses to avoid during pregnancy would be those that require you to be on your stomach, specifically after the 4th month of pregnancy. Most literature also advises staying off your back (as in sleeping). Of course, you should never begin your prenatal yoga practice without your midwife or doctor's consent.

With the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommending yoga as safe and effective exercise during pregnancy, you can feel rest-assured that you're on the right path to for childbirth preparation. And if you experience any discomfort during a prenatal yoga class, be sure to inform your instructor -there's always a way to modify a pose!

The benefits learned during yoga will also help you after the baby arrives, and will continue to change both of your lives in a dramatic way. And, while in class you may meet other pregnant women who may validate many of the new experiences pregnancy brings. So, give it a try!

Lisa Pedersen is a certified prenatal yoga instructor and the owner/founder of YogaBirthTM. She feels privileged to work with pregnant women and their birth partners (husbands, friends, etc.) both in her class instruction and through her labor prep workshops where she shows couples how to use yoga poses and breathing to birth their baby. She is also the founder and designer of the YogaBirth maternity line.

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